Friday, December 23, 2011

Giving The Advent Conspiracy

This is the second year I've been aware of The Advent Conspiracy.  If you've never heard of it, you can watch this video:
[AC] Promo 2011 - International Justice Mission from
 Advent Conspiracy on Vimeo.

Worship Fully:  That's the first exhortation.  Boy, I love to do that.  It doesn't get any better than sitting at the feet of Jesus.  God's Holy Spirit massaging your heart, loving you, forgiving you, accepting you and blessing you for how He made you!  We try to give to God, but we can only give what He gives us first! 

1 John 4:19
We love because he first loved us.

Spend Less:  Years ago, I latched onto the idea that a handmade Christmas was more meaningful than a gift card.  (But of course I would never turn one down!)  The Spend Less idea was not a hard one. Most of us want to do that, so we save the big money gifts for the kids and just do handmade things for grown-ups.  I made jewelry for my mom or knit a scarf. I made a quilt for my husband last year.  Even the "rush to get things done" pressure can mount with that.

Give More
:  My friend invited me to her house for a "baking party."  I had never really heard of one, so it seemed fun.  As she was showing a couple of us how to make cinnamon rolls, she began to share about Advent Conspiracy and the idea of giving your time instead of spending.  Her idea was to give us this skill (that was a talent of hers,) in place of a gift that we may not ever use.  I, in turn, blessed my neighbors with some warm cinnamon rolls when they had just gotten back into town from overseas for Christmas.
 
She inspired me.  I realized that since we couldn't entertain large groups this year (due to Victor's condition after the accident--see past posts), that I would forgo that for the intimate gathering of two or three.  A friend and I set aside time to knit together.  Another friend and I prayed together.  The Advent Conspiracy was changing lives in small ways. 

But what about the next one, Give More? Giving time is less convenient than spending money on someone else (except the hemming and hawing, standing on one foot then the other in the overwhelming department store deciding what to get for Aunt Martha.)  So giving more to servant groups that feed the poor, provide water for remote villages, care for orphans and widows is an AWESOME thing to do.  I do it whenever I can.

But here's the deal.  What if you lost your job? What if you have health issues that don't allow you to work?  What if you don't have insurance?  What if you can't even pay the bills?  What if you work for yourself and don't have any business right now?  Can you still do Advent Conspiracy?  What if you are putting everything extra you get into getting out of debt?  You are trying to do the right thing.  You are wanting to follow all of the pastor's exhortations to tithe and give over and above that.  God will bless you.  God DOES bless you.  It's a a spiritual principle--a challenge from God even.
Return to me, and I will return to you,” says the LORD Almighty.    “But you ask, ‘How are we to return?’
 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
   “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
   “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty.  “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty. Malachi 3:7-12 (Today's New International Version)
Who wants to rob God?  Not me!  How do I give more when I don't have much?  Well, you have to ask God what He wants you to do. You may not fit into the "traditional giver" category.  I used to be there before I got married.  I thought, "I get a regular paycheck and if I write that first check to God before anything else, it doesn't hurt as bad." It helped me stay faithful.  And I felt good about that.  I was doing the right thing.  I was obeying the Bible and my pastor and God Himself.  Only I hadn't really talked to God about it.  I just "praised God with my checkbook."

I can't do that right now.  Sure, I hope I can get a regular paycheck in the future. It certainly feels more secure.  But maybe God is calling me past that.  Our churches are asking us to give to them for very important ministries.  But what if God has whispered another ministry in your ear?  What if he nudges you to put your last $5 into that homeless guy's cup?  What if an orphan has captured your heart and you feel led to adopt them (online or into your home?)  Are we still robbing God by not bringing the tithes into the conventional organized storehouse? Or is the storehouse more borderless than we have been led to believe? 

I haven't really mentioned the word faith, but that's what I'm talking about.  Living by faith.  Not the kind that originates from you.  The kind you stir up because you want something (for unselfish reasons of course!)  I'm talking about the "faith that comes by hearing."  I like the Amplified Version for this:
Romans 10:17
So faith comes by hearing [what is told], and what is heard comes by the preaching [of the message that came from the lips] of Christ (the Messiah Himself).
I'm pretty literal about this. Aren't we to hear the very words that come from God's lips?  God, Jesus, Holy Spirit--Trinity God--whichever personality is interacting with us at any given time.  What I'm trying to say is DO NOT FALL UNDER CONDEMNATION if you cannot manage the tradtional giving model. But LISTEN TO JESUS.

How do I do that, you may ask.  For some, reading the Bible is the only sanctioned way to hear God.  I'm not going to get into that here, but if you do read a lot of the Bible, you can see that God spoke to His people most of the time. Just ask Him to speak His direction to you and stay still enough to listen...
“Be still, and know that I am God.
and

1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.


Some are more organized than I am and use a journal method like the Communing with God Ministries. (http://www.cwgministries.org/


Love All:  Well, I'm trying to do that right now.  I'm taking time out of my Christmas push to write these words to encourage those of you who may be struggling with the Give More part of the Advent Conspiracy.  See I said "Christmas push" cuz I'm still struggling to simplify.  I want to, but it's all these other family members that expect something...  Here's where the Love All begins.  It's a balance.  Only your time with the Lord can help you do that.  I find I get into more difficulties with others when I haven't spent time receiving God's love earlier.  Remember,

           1 John 4:8
           Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

I want to Love All.  I know you do too.  But it's all these difficult humans that get in the way!  But in the presence of God is Love.  And we all know that...
1 Peter 4:8
[Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since] ...love covers a multitude of sins.
I am going to love you more by stopping since I know it's only a day until the Christmas celebrations begin.  Your time is precious and I respect that.  Receive the Love of Jesus this holiday season.  Sacrificial, wonderful, giving, precious, fulfilling love.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Merry Christmas!

       Yes, I know it's not PC to say that, but I say it loud and proud.  Ok, maybe I should be more meek and mild about it. I just want people to know where I stand.  Not as a rude, culturally insensitive person, but as a person who is uncomfortable with the genericization of the Holidays.  (Yes, I made up that word...it's not in dictionary.com anyway.) If you are Jewish, I want to wish you Happy Hanukah!
      So, where was I?  Oh yes, Merry Christmas!  If you are reading this, you might have gotten my Christmas card link:
http://karenrenee-sweetsojourn.blogspot.com/ And you found us!  Congratulations to those of you to whom the blog-o-sphere is new.  I discovered this world when Victor was sick and I put out the notifications on how he was progressing on Caring Bridge.org.  I still have not closed that account if you wanted to go back and read anything about Victor's recovery last spring. http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/victorperez1
       From late June until now, I've been occasionally posting on this site.  So in lieu of the Christmas Card letter, I am saving trees and labor by posting this update of how our family is doing this year. With pictures. 
            Daytime Christmas tree                                                                   Nighttime

Mia agreed to let us color coordinate this year with the ornaments, so it's silver and white, with blue, green and white lights.  I've really enjoyed that for a change.   We also had a snowflake (recycled plastic soda can holders) theme on the windows.
I'll try to get a daytime picture for the next post.  
 
If you've been following us on Facebook, I've been posting about this GIANT snowman down the street...that reminds me of the Tasty-Puff giant on the first Ghostbusters movie.  Yes, it is 2+ stories tall!  Today I drove by and he was headless...scary.

So, the halls are decked...

The  neighbors have sent over the Christmas cookies...
You've got the cards,

     
 ...so now let's talk about our year.  Lately, I've been calling it our wilderness journey.  It started on May 14th when Victor decided to trim the tree in front of our house.  He fell and the rest is on the Caring Bridge site.  I do not want to rehash that today.  I want to talk about getting out of the wilderness!  Victor is still recovering.  His memory is great--the only thing he cannot remember is the 3 weeks right after the accident, but that is God's protection on him I believe.  His rib fractures and scapula have healed. His third lumbar was chipped, so if he overdoes it, he gets some back pain.  This is an excerpt of an earlier blog post:
     "His inner ear is still bothering him.  He says it feels like there's water in there.  He doesn't hear well out of the right ear and the left ear is very sensitive to sound.  So one minute it's, "What did you say? I can't hear you!" and the next minute it's, "You're too loud, can you move back a little?"  The worst part for him is that he is nauseous ALL THE TIME unless lying down AND DIZZY.  So, poor guy, he walks around like he's on a sailing vessel."   We ask you to continue lifting Victor up to Jesus. 
    Though V is not working right now, don't think he's not busy.  I have the most organized house in the neighborhood I'm sure!  He does all sorts of things around the house and yard, just pushing through the nausea.  He's really trying to do his best.

     Mia is in high school now!  She played soccer this fall for the Westbury Phoenix team.  It keeps her in shape and the teams she plays are quite challenging.  But each year they improve.  They won more games this year than last.
      
Nice block or nice dance step--you pick!
      She goes to school 4 days a week.  At Home Ed Plus she takes Science and Algebra, and at Schola in Sugar Land she takes French and an integrated History, Literature and Christian World View Class called The Great Conversation.  She's such fun and funny too.  Here's a picture from her 14th birthday.  Yes, that's from the shaving cream fight.  Like most teenagers, she spends much of her time in her room, on her smart phone or photo-shopping--not buying photos (for you old timers,) but using the photo shop program to alter photos.  I need to get her altering my photos! 


      My son Mark is still studying at Home Ed Plus.  He loves Vintage Video Games and factoids about them.  He's started collecting a few.  His favorite new place in Houston is Game Over, a vintage video store.  Vintage makes old things sound cool, right?  Mia shops for vintage clothes and Mark for vintage games.  I feel vintage these days! Ha, ha, ha! 
Here he is at U of H Tech Camp

At a friend's birthday party racing go-carts.

At Thanksgiving with Bitsy our cousin's dog (in Austin.)
      Then there's me.  I don't blog as much as in the summer because I teach writing to 2nd and 3rd graders. I lead worship at a women's bible study on Tuesday nights taught by my good friend Brett who is back from India for the year.  I teach Spanish to high school kids, and tutor writing to other ages too.  But I've reached the stage of life that I'd heard most of my friends with teens moan about--chauffering.  I take Mark to tutoring, Mia to Schola, and go though a tank of gas a week!  Spending much of the time in the car gives me time to pray, worship, listen to teachings and stories on cd.  Mark and I are listening to the Hardy Boys when I take him places.   I actually spend a lot of my time helping the others in this family to succeed.  That's a wife's/mom's job right?  It's just that it's probably one of the most time consuming and difficult jubs on the planet.  I need a lot of grace to do better. 
     
     Well if you've gotten this far, you've got more time on your hands than I do! Ha, ha...  If you want to keep up with us, then please join the blog or just come back and visit from time to time. I pray you and yours have a very Merry Christmas.  Thank you for being our friends and supporting us through this wilderness year.  We are trying to learn from it so as to not stay here much longer.  So this is my verse for 2011:
My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
 2 Cor. 12:9


Monday, November 28, 2011

More Thanksgiving! (TG2)

We (my kids, my mom and Pop) traveled to Austin to be with my cousins!
Sheila sets an elegant table, doesn't she?

They have adorable doggies too!  This is Bitsy.

Just wanted to show you I was there too. 

We love going to Austin to laugh and veg at our cousins'.  It's a healing time to just "be."  To love and be loved. We went to the Oasis over Lake Travis too.  My favorite part of going there was sitting all together in front of the stone fireplace--relaxed, comfy and warm.  I hope your Thanksgiving was thankful and relaxing.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving! (TG1)


One of the best parts about Thanksgiving so far has been realizing God's blessings! 

 We had a nice, quiet meal together.


I really want to praise God for getting us through such a tough year.   I also want to thank all of the precious friends who loved on us, made us a meal, came to the hospital to visit, gave gift cards, bought us a new bed, gave us gas money, parking money, parking passes, prayed for us, took our kids places, let them stay over, sat with Victor when I couldn't, patiently listened to me let it all out, understood when we had to say no, and stayed friends with us!  You are our blessing!  God has used you as His hands this year.  Let those blessings be multiplied for you!  Hallelujah! 
May God's Shalom be upon you and your family this season.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

When Blogging is a Chore it's Easy to Ignore--Family Update

It has been almost 2 months since my last blog post.  School steam-rolled all over us. I taught all day Monday from 9:30 to 4:00. Wednesdays from 9 to 2. I wore the hats of soccer mom and carpool mom.  I dog-sat. I applied for jobs. I took my son to therapy...which has actually turned out to be great for both of us.  I can't stand the waiting room...a hodge-podge of couches slammed against one another in maze-like fashion a la Pac-man.  Harried women checking their smart phones and ignoring their toddlers who love to chase one another and drop goldfish on the laminate floor.

I have started walking in the nearby townhouse complex.  The courtyards are more like walkways under magnolias and sycamores with an occasional bench to stop and rest, read or pray.  Tues/Thurs from 10 to 10:45... I just love it.  God really speaks during that time.

Mark is enjoying the therapy, especially the pretty, fun therapist named "Miss Jenna".   This is a long way from the first day he went when he muttered, "I hate you," to me as she escorted him out of the waiting room. All he saw was the crazy waiting room and how he was so much bigger and older than the pre-school crowd. But 2 months later, "It's fun." They have a gym where he builds coordination and confidence.

My daughter is making great strides in high school.  It's great to see, how when your kid gets older, they actually start to do the things you've been telling them to do for years! She's studying hard, taking classes 4 days a week. I must say I am quite proud of her.  Oh sure, her room is a mess, and I have to threaten to take away her electronics (laptop, I-Touch, Smart phone) to get her to make her bed, etc. [She has more electronics than my husband and I put together.]  But well, we're struggling in science.  Now that soccer is over, with practices taking up crucial study times, I hope to see great improvement.  Oh, and she's pretty much grounded until the grades improve. (I haven't used the word "grounded," but "No sleepovers," etc. has come out of my mouth.)

And Victor?  All I can say is, "Poor Victor."  His inner ear is still bothering him.  He says it feels like there's water in there.  He doesn't hear well out of the right ear and the left ear is very sensitive to sound.  So one minute it's, "What did you say? I can't hear you!" and the next minute it's, "You're too loud, can you move back a little?"  The worst part for him is that he is nauseous ALL THE TIME unless lying down AND DIZZY.  So, poor guy, he walks around like he's on a sailing vessel. 

I've been told, and we've researched it, that there is a procedure called the Epley or Espley maneuver that can adjust your inner ear and cure the nausea.  Apparently we have crystals in a bone in the inner ear that can become dislodged.  This maneuver of the head and neck can get the crystals back where they belong and voila!  No more dizziness or nausea.  It seems to me that falling several feet onto concrete would totally shake up your inner ear. 

The specialist we went to was not as encouraging. Even though Victor is saying that sometimes his hearing is getting "a little better." Without an MRI,  the doctor can't tell much, but he thought the cochlea might be damaged and that the brain is trying to readjust. Sigh.  We are hoping the Espley whatever maneuver will be our miracle--if we can just find a doctor that has heard of it! (and takes Medicaid, of course.)  I am not ruling out a God miracle either. Praying that, for sure!

Random direction: Apples are so awesome right now.  We got a good batch of Jonagolds and are crunching away as I blog!  They are too big for the apple corers!  Victor made an apple pie "cake" that is a family favorite the other day.  It was gone in 1 and 1/2 days...yum! 

Yes, Victor is not letting any nausea or dizziness stop him from going to the gym, doing yard work, cooking, cleaning, doing wash... He is such a hard worker.  You can't tell him what to do or what not to do... it's just not something he deals with well. 

So I pray and I walk.  I go to Bible study on Tuesday evenings with my sweet friend, Brett, and am leading worship again. It's always been hard...guitar...I don't know if I'll ever feel comfortable playing solo, but the women tell me they are blessed. It's about "entering in" anyway.  Brett and I make a great ministry team.  She's a good Bible teacher. I like how she depends on the Holy Spirit and doesn't mind changing plans if God has something better. We pray for the women after or whenever the HS leads.  She has words of knowledge and I see pictures.  It's so fun to operate in the gifts every week!  If you want to come to our meeting, call me or send me a Facebook message.  (I still have a hard time using FB as a verb...)

On my walks I have been reading books by Chuck Smith, Jim Goll, Bill Johnson, Kevin Daedmon, et al. and learning how to step out in the Spirit. It all comes down to soaking in His Presence and letting Him have His way. It's the way I get through all this tough stuff.  I encourage you to turn on some spirit filled music and start soaking!  He's true gratitude in this Thanksgiving season.

Friday, September 16, 2011

I Don't Recommend Biopsies

Yup, got one today.  Blood taken (a breeze...) CT scan, (no prob...) but the biopsy was in a lump right below my left ear...very close if not on top of my saliva gland.  Biopsies are basically being poked with a needle at least 6 times.  Twice is to numb the area and 4 times to "fish" for cells in the lump.  The docs were nice and very chatty ladies saying encouraging things like, "You're doing so gooood!"  It was reassuring, like when you were little and you got kudos for toughing it out. 

It didn't lessen the pain though.  Oh, it wasn't that bad, but imagine you are at the dentist and he is jamming that big needle into your gums.  "It's just a little mosquito." my childhood dentist used to say to me. 
I'm thinking, "More like a wasp--or maybe just a GIANT NEEDLE."  But I digress... I felt like I was having one of those moments but on the outside of my jaw!

Ok, no more grossing out.  Truthfully, ok, more truth, cuz I haven't been lying!  I had a lot of peace today.  Trying not to think about it until it's upon you is a great strategy. Praying and worshiping also worked. But now, after the fact, my lump does ache... hoping the ache will be gone tomorrow.  Praying for the lump to disappear before they have to cut it out.  The good news is that the mass is benign; bad news is they will have to remove it or it will keep growing.  I have had it for a year and it isn't any bigger that I can tell.  Yay for that.  I'm still praying that my God will dissolve it.  Will you agree with me in prayer for that? Thanks! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lessons from a Drought

Took my daughter to Bayland Park for soccer practice last night.  The drought has really done a number on it.  Deep cracks in the dirt, dust patches where the nightly throw-together soccer teams scratch out their goals... I felt like I was walking on the moon as I circled the walking trail. 

So I looked over to the soccer field where my daughter's team was practicing.  It was green and bee-yoo-ti-ful!  Well, compared to the yellow, dusty field with scraggly dying trees anyway.  I decided to circle the green field instead.  It smelled fresh and when the wind blew across it, there was almost a coolness accompanying it.  It IS 97 plus degrees most days...actually it was over 100 degrees for 17 straight days in August. 

As I enjoyed the breeze and watched the sky darken and color the clouds salmon and pink, I realized that this scene is an analogy for the world.  Most people plod around a bleak track with dust in their eyes just following behind the guy in front of them, when nearby is a verdant, cool dwelling place where they can be refreshed!

Now the soccer field has a fence around it.  It's not really open to everyone.  Only those who are members of the Westbury Soccer team (and families) can be there.  So really, no one on that dusty walking track could go to the field.

If you are a believer you know where I'm headed with this!  :D  Ok, even if you aren't, it's pretty clear.  To become a member of God's team, we have to go through the gate of Jesus.  We have full privileges of the team! 

Walking in the living, refreshing presence of God is a place of comfort and renewal for us when we have to head back to the "track." How many days have I plodded through without taking the time to head to the richness of His "field?" How often do I forget that God is love?

I walked around that field till the sun slipped out of the sky and the clouds turned purple.  I felt refreshed!

As the old worship song goes, "I'd rather be a doorkeeper in His house than to spend my whole life somewhere else..." (from Psalms I believe.)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Victor Update

Don't know if anyone really reads this blog.  It seems like there is so much competition for our attention these days, blogs are just another thing to read. I've discovered some great ones, though.  That said, I realize I haven't said much in a while about how Victor is doing, just in case others DO check in from time to time to see about him/us.

Victor has more energy these days.  His back doesn't hurt constantly, just regularly... every couple of days, he says.  I imagine it will constantly improve as it has been doing this past month and 1/2 since he's gotten out of the hospital. 

Let's review: 
Victor had his accident: May 14th.
Victor got out of the hospital: June 13th
Victor has been home for seven weeks.

We have been so blessed by other's giving.  Just the other day, an anonymous donor put $100 in our mailbox.  A very good friend bought us a new mattress, so Victor is now sleeping on it in our bedroom. 

I have noticed that Victor is using his laptop now. He is paying bills and catching up on his emails--but don't expect one if he promised it while he was in the hospital! :D He doesn't remember much about his first 2-3 weeks there. ;D  He wants to begin working out at the gym again. (Therapy?!!)  He has driven a bit.  We have gone on out to eat as a family a couple of times.  The stimulation of a public place still weighs on him--it's hard to filter out distractions. He is beginning to cook for himself if I'm not available, and do some housework.  All good things.  Still, he is tires easily.  It's a slow road, but he's making his way. 

He has been asking questions about the accident, and has pretty much interviewed everyone that was there at the time--except of course the paramedics!  He's trying to piece everything together... The other day he mentioned wanting to go back to the hospital so he can see it from another perspective.  Being a patient was not much to his liking. 

Both Victor and I are challenged to work through issues that were perhaps easier to ignore before the accident. I call it "before the fall."  With the disruption from our daily lives of the accident--we seem to be seeing things through new eyes.

We still appreciate your prayers and encouragement!  Thanks to everyone who has rallied around us.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Laugh, Don't Cry

Our camel's back has
Small straws
Lost necesities
Library books
Shampoo and soap
Garage door opener
Larger straws
Car wreck
Law suits
Mortgage
Bills
A sick child
Broken bones
Bad backs

Fear and paranoia
Feral and fierce
Laser focus
I can't stand up to
So ridiculous
I hurry to laugh
Quick
Hold my hand
We pray
Frustrated fighting
Falls flat
In the face of Faith

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mary Tyler Moore Lives Here

Canned laughter floats through my home over the roar of the air conditioning. 

Ever since my husband has come home from the hospital, he has watched tv to distract him from all the back, ribs, shoulder pain.  Nostalgic channels seem to work the most miracles on him. You know the tv shows he watched as a kid that are rebroadcast regularly. 

Oh there's Lucy and Ricky, The Brady Bunch, and even The Twilight Zone. But Mary Tyler Moore seems to work her magic the best.  I love the old Dick Van Dyke show with Rob, Laura, Richie, Buddy, Sally, Mel, and of course the neighbors Jerry and Millie.  But MTM also has Mary in the 70's--you know Oprah's idol, the news producer alone in the city.  These two shows are back to back sometimes twice a day. 

They say laughter is the best medicine and in this case, I guess it's true!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

More on Rebekah, Isaac, Jesus and You

Rebekah means Bound. Wow!   On a whim I looked this up.  If we, the church, are Rebekah, the Bride of Christ, we are bound to Him.  Awesome. 

I had wanted to write more on what I learned from the Chumash, (see last post: Isaac and Rebekah.)  It mentioned that while Rebekah approached from her camel, she inclined towards Isaac.  I see this as a picture of us as we are journeying towards Jesus, our husband. We are inclining towards Him as we worship him in both large settings and privately,  and when we read, study and pray the Word. 

I have always been a bit flustered since I heard a sermon on the word, prayer.  It means "to kiss."  Like a girl on her first date kind of flustered.  Pink cheeks, flustered.  I mean what kind of intimacy is that?  Something most of us can relate to!  Are you "praying" this intimately with Him?  Is He touching your heartstrings like a lover?  Do you feel the same intimacy with your Maker as you do your boy or girl friend, or spouse--at least in the good ol' days when you were newlyweds!  Hopefully, you are still in that wonderful stage--but I digress.

In the Chumash the commentary says, "Finally, Isaac brought [Rebekah] to his mother's tent, and there it became apparent that she was a fitting successor to Sarah, for the holy presence of Sarah returned to the tent of her son,  It was then that Isaac loved her..." 

Sarah means princess.  The Jews see her as a princess of their people...maybe more like a queen.  The Chumash seems to make her into a saint in the above quote when they talk about her "holy presence" in the tent.  A bit creepy.  Kind of like making love in your in-laws bedroom... But my point today is that Sarah does, in a sense, bequeath her royalty to Rebekah.  We, too, receive a royalty when we become a child of God, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

So, whethter you are a male or female, prince or princess, we are going to wed the Prince of Peace. Shouldn't we be doing a lot of kissing?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Isaac and Rebekah-A Picture of Jesus and His Bride

The book is heavy.  It is bound in a dark blue leather.  The sides of the pages shine, slick and golden. It is read from left to right. It is called the Chumash: the five books of Moses.

I discovered a similar copy at my dear friend's house. In awe I opened the beautiful tome and wondered at the Hebrew text that fill the right side pages.  The left side translation was my mother tongue, my heart language.  It was the scriptures I knew from childhood, but through a distinctively Jewish lens.  I had to have a copy of my own.  I used a gift card from a student which didn't cover the entire price... I believe it is worth every penny. 

So today I read my favorite Bible Story (or at least Torah story,) how Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, goes to find a wife for Isaac. Abraham had just taken Isaac with him to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him to the Lord.  We know that God halted him with knife flashing in mid-air, ready to slice his "son, his only son," 's throat.  We know that God provided the ram in a nearby bush that "just happened" to be there.  What I learned today is that in Jewish tradition (unlike in the old movies like The Bible,) Isaac was 37 years old!  [...which is a good age to find a wife. My husband was that age when he married me!]

God knew Abraham was devoted to him because he was going to sacrifice his "son, his only son," even though he had waited almost 100 years for him!  And here begins the great analogies that give us life and grace today: Abraham now knew how God would feel a couple of thousand years later. 
Here's where it gets interesting.
 
Abraham calls Eliezer to him to send him to his brother's house to get a wife from his own people for Isaac.  Here the Jewish commentary says: (and there is a LOT of commentary!) when the text says "lay your hand on my thigh and swear that you will do this," thigh refers to his "loins" (euphemism for penis.) So, I'm thinkin' woah, Abraham, this is really serious! But it doesn't seem to phase good ol' Eliezer.  He promises, he goes back to Haran, where Abraham came from and looks for a kind girl, one who will not only think of his but of his camels' welfare.

To me the analogy began to flow.  Jesus, God's son, His only son, has a forerunner, Isaac.  God wants a bride for His son!  He sends his servant, one who is willing to believe for the best, and look for the best possible wife. Do you see Believers here as Eliezer, the servant who has traveled a long way to find the Bride for God's Son Jesus?

Throughout the Scriptures God has painted picture after picture of His plan of salvation for His lost. My pastor friend preached a great sermon about that last Sunday when I visited the Vineyard.  I have gone 2 weeks in a row just to hear these sermons on Loss (going through quite a bit of that now.) Here's the link to these great messages: http://houstonvineyard.org/podcasts/feed.xml Restoring God's Loss 7/18/11.

Back to Isaac/Jesus and Rebekah/the Church, the Bride of Christ--we are both  Eliezer, the servant. when we seek to introduce others to Jesus; and we are Rebekah, the bride, once we accept the Son.
When Isaac saw Rebekah from afar off, he had been "supplicating"--praying, waiting for his wife to be brought to him.  She "inclined" which the commentaries say means leaned towards him (from atop her camel) and put on her veil, preparing herself for him.

"Then he took her into his tent, and made her his wife."  They knew each other intimately.  Precious and beautiful, don't you think? Even if you are a guy, you could get that part if you see it from Jesus'/Isaac's point of view.

More on this later...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Our First Family Outing in 2 Months

We are headed for the Macaroni Grill!  Victor has not wanted to leave the house for this past month and he was in the hospital for the month previous to that.  I got a gift card for a teacher appreciation gift from Home Ed Plus.  All four of us will pile into the unairconditioned car this evening.  Victor can't drive yet.  I wonder how much stamina he'll have?  Pasta pictures are coming! I'll need to get a family pic as well just to remind us that we can be a family.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Best Part of My Day

...was holding a baby.

          Head like velvet
          Tongue clicks softly
          Blue eyes look up
          In my face
          Like I've hung the moon.

          Head bobs
          Snuggles
          Arms akimbo
          Relaxing into
          Peaceful slumber.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Opposites Attract then Drive Each Other Crazy...

unless there is mutual trust and of course, love, "which covers a multitude of sins."  :D
I finally got to the store Saturday to complete my anniversary bouquet that I was headed to get on Friday when the accident occurred. It is the perfect visual for my marriage.  I highly value symbolism, irony, metaphor... oh and puns... the lowest form of humor according to my husband.  Keep the above in mind when you see our anniversary bouquet.
Guess who the puffy, frilly hydrangeas represent and the spiky, thistle-like "flowers" represent?  But don't they look good together?  The contrast of the shapes and the colors coordinate so well. This is what God intends for our marriage.  Don't they kind of look like fireworks?
      It's interesting that today, more than one person on Facebook has said, "Independence doesn't make you free."  Only Jesus can truly do that.  Funny that only in submission to our King are we truly freed. 

Happy 4th of July everyone! 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Food Journey

                                              

BLT Salad a la Everyday Foods.  Today's "lunch", a relative term here, since it's almost 4:00 p.m. Let's see if we can avoid "complications" (read nausea) for Victor.  Bacon = turkey.  Another success!  What better comfort food than croutons made from scratch...and homemade Ranch Dressing.  It's just buttermilk, mayo, apple cider vinegar and chopped green onions.  I added a bit of sour cream for thickness otherwise it can get  watery. 

I first found this recipe in  Issue 19 of EF, Jan/Feb 2005, in their special light issue--New Year's Resolutions, you know, turn over a new leaf by quitting all the rich foods that you stuffed your face with between (if you're a mom) Halloween candy and Christmas cookies.  It's by far my most worn issue, with about 10 of my favorite recipes.  Turkey chili that uses cocoa powder and molasses--SO good.  It's the Super Bowl issue too, so there are several meals for a crowd.   

Now I just call up the recipe from my Zip List Recipe Box.  http://www.ziplist.com/mylist My husband, Mr. Organized, knows that we save more money on buying groceries if we go with a list that was made with a menu in mind.  I pick my recipes and it automatically adds the ingredients to a shopping list that I can print and take to the store with me.  If I had a smart phone/iPad, which I don't, I could just look it up there.  Oh wait, I do have an iPhone--but I promised I'd send it back!  I will.  I haven't even turned it on or anything! But it sure is tempting! :D


Saturday, July 2, 2011

What do you do when everything's new?

I love to cook.  My grandmother cooked the same 10 recipes or so with most things coming from a can or a box.  It was that generation, I suppose.  My mom worked and didn't cook much.  So I have to confess that Martha Stewart basically taught me to cook.  As a new wife 16 years ago, I was eager to try new things in the kitchen.  Victor liked the order of the Martha Stewart magazine and the Good Things, so we ordered the magazine.  Real Simple came next.  Dwell.  All with cool style and some great recipes.  Finally we found Everyday Food--still under Martha's eagle eye of style but with other chefs in the mix.  We have every issue of this cute, smaller magazine--I mean smaller in size--like the old Reader's Digests. 

I still like looking up recipes at the Martha website because of the zip list link.  You just  pick the meal you want from her site and it automatically adds all the ingredients on a list for you at http://www.ziplist.com/ as well as adding the recipe link to your virtual recipe box.  We've been taking Everyday Food magazine since 2003 and I can look up the recipes on line, find where they are in the magazines and not have to print out hard copies to have in the kitchen when I cook.

Ok, so because of V's nausea, it seems like he can't eat much that he used to eat.  He doesn't know what he can eat, and neither do I.  I actually started praying about  what to buy when I'm at the store.   Jesus ate fish, so I bought some (even though we haven't eaten much in a long while.) And, he actually ate it! 

At least today I got some more help directly from him.  "Comfort Food" is what he wants.  Now for me that's chocolate and PB&J.  Hardly his favorite.  This is still challenging. 

Success!  He said yes, to potato salad.  That's  his comfort food. Yay.

Trapped?

It feels like we are right now.  I can't drive my wrecked car, just in case fluids leak and can cause worse damage.  Victor wants us not to be rushed by the insurance company's "machine" that railroads you to go to their authorized body shops.  He and I have both had bad experiences with badly done body repair on wrecked cars.  I told him that I respected his desire to go slowly and find a reputable car repair place that we can trust.  But that's not until Tuesday.

But I can't really leave the house.  Remember the broken garage door?  That's the one that is in front of the car that works--and our bikes.  So I call neighbors to see if I can get a ride to run errands.  No one is home because I suppose it's 4th of July weekend. 

Of course, in the spirit I am not trapped.  When my efforts to struggle to make things happen come to naught, I have to look up and ask my Father what He has intended for today (this weekend for that matter!) My flesh wants convenience, wants things to come easy.  Right now, not much in my life comes effortlessly.  Why do we even think life will be like that? 

Victor is now being honest about his pain. It is hard for anyone to admit they are disabled who is independent and isn't used to having to depend on others.  He tells me his back feels like a hot iron is poking him (3rd lumbar- low back). He has numbing in the right hand and can't hear well out of one ear.  Not to mention the ribs or shoulder blade pain.  The kids and I can only imagine.

My son gets frustrated because his dad sits on the couch in pain (watching tv to get his mind off of it) where he wants to be playing video games on the Wii. Mark gets irritated that Daddy asks him to bring him water, etc.  I know he's only 11, but I wish he had a bit more compassion or understanding.  I pray that will come for all of us.  Compassion, I'm seeing, is something from above.  Our natural compassion just isn't enough for the long haul like this. Intellectually and spiritually, I can see that we are growing, but we all four need lots of grace, because we fail to be loving every day.   But we also succeed a bit each day too.

I am rereading a book on Psalm 91.  I have begun to pray this Psalm again.  I can't believe I haven't been praying it everyday since the accident first happened.  You better believe I'm doing it now.  My friend gave me Psalm 20 when I called her right after the accident yesterday.  I prayed it while I was waiting for the policeman to arrive.
Psalm 20
 1 May the LORD answer you when you are in distress;
   may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
2 May he send you help from the sanctuary
   and grant you support from Zion.
3 May he remember all your sacrifices
   and accept your burnt offerings.
4 May he give you the desire of your heart
   and make all your plans succeed.
5 May we shout for joy over your victory
   and lift up our banners in the name of our God.

   May the LORD grant all your requests.
 6 Now this I know:
   The LORD gives victory to his anointed.
  He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary
   with the victorious power of his right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
   but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
8 They are brought to their knees and fall,
   but we rise up and stand firm.
9 LORD, give victory to the king!
   Answer us when we call!


I don't know how people do it without God's help.

Friday, July 1, 2011

From the Sublime to the Crime

I spent the morning at the Tabernacle Experience, taking in the symbolism and the significance of it all. 
 Prayers rise like incense.  
 My time with the Lord is tender and powerful. 
I lit the menorah. 



I took communion at the shew bread table.  Notice the stripes on the matzo; they symbolize the stripes on the true Bread of Life. Jesus bore stripes so we could be healed.  

And then, BOOM! A lady pulls in front of me from the Vanderbuilt Square parking lot this afternoon near the intersection of Holcombe and Buffalo Speedway. My first thought is, "Satan hates me."  It seems like the days I spend time praying for Israel, or doing any kind of spiritual warfare, he definitely sends attacks.   Like in 1 Peter 5:8  "Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
                                                                    BUT

As soon as we pulled out of traffic (yes, the car is still drivable,) an ambulance just happened to be in a nearby parking lot.  They saw the accident, called the police for us, and checked to see if we were ok. My daughter was in the car too, but fortunately in the back.  She called her friend right after the accident.  Her friend and mom just happened to be nearby and offered to buy us lunch right near the accident scene. The lady I hit was very sweet.  She and I spoke and I'd like you to pray for her.  She was distressed that it was her fault. I definitely feel like this was a Psalm 91 experience.  The funniest part was that she asked me if my baby was ok... yup, it's time to lose weight. Even funnier is that I was flattered that she thought I looked young enough to be pregnant! 
So, here it is, my anniversary and fourth of July weekend.  I will probably spend it here, at home.  Where else can I go?  I have a healing husband and no car. 
I'm not really feeling sorry for myself.  How can I when I have such protection in the midst of strife? I will leave you with a couple more Victor pictures for my attempt at anniversary honor. 
                                    More of my house that my hubby designed and built. 
Our upstairs is down, and our downstairs is up. That means bedrooms on first floor and living spaces upstairs.  It's like a treehouse!


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Honor one another above yourselves.

Still looking to honor my husband for our anniversary tomorrow.  Benefits of living with an organized man. It really is a blessing.  
Our see through garage doors...in which you only see cars and one wall of organized stuff.

My laundry room.


Labels, labels, labels! "It makes life easier," says Vic.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My 16th Anniversary Friday, July 1st

I started getting mopey about this a couple of days ago.  I told my S-I-L that I was trying to be understanding with my healing hubby, but I knew the anniversary wouldn't really be much.  She told me to go get a cake, some flowers and maybe watch our wedding video.  Good for her!  I needed that.

Also to celebrate the good things about my marriage, I will be posting some of the great things about Victor up until Friday. 
Victor working on his latest project.

V putting together my daughter's futon-couch.  Notice the gold vanity on the right that he spray-painted and inserted fabric that matches the rug where the mirror (that broke) should be to make a bulletin board.
***
Oh yes, he designed and built this cool house we have lived in for 12 years.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Winning!

 06/23/2011  Misc. CreditChase Savings Boost Sweepstakes Winner!  $500.00  


But this time it's for real!  Eventhough I had such a terrible day on the 23rd, what I didn't know is that on that same day I won $500 from my bank!  Has anyone ever heard of this kind of sweeptstakes? 

I'm still working on the iPhone/$849 mixup.  One thing for sure, I'm not sending the phone back until the $$ is back in my account. 

Aside from blogging a bit, I'm working on my short stories.  I started about 3 years ago during Community Bible Study.  There was a random assignment that asked me to "imagine you are there in the crowd when the woman who had been bleeding for 18 years touched Jesus' garment." So I did.  I wrote a two page story.  I asked myself what her life had been like to lead her to that moment.  What motivated her?  What were her inner thoughts and responses before, during and afterwards? I called it A New Direction. It was FUN!  So I did another. 

Victor had been listening to Joyce Meyer preach.  Her message was about Jesus talking to the paralytic who languished by the Pool of Siloam for 38 years!  When she recited Jesus' words to the man, "Do you want to be healed?" Victor was so convicted.  He said it pierced his heart.  I was encouraged that my husband had been touched like that, so I thought I'd write this story next. I titled it In the Shadow of Mercy. I made it into a handmade book and gave it to him for Christmas that year. 

Bible Study intervened again about "Let the little children come to me" story. Mark 10. It asked us to do the imagining-you-are-there exercise again, so I wrote this one from the perspective of a 12 year old girl (the same age as my daughter at the time.) It was fun and easily flowed into "The rich, young ruler" story from the girl's perspective. It's called Go to Him.

I kept going.  Next I wrote about Mary of Mary and Martha.  It was when she annointed his feet with the perfume, which I entitled The Alabaster Jar. That one lent itself to flashbacks of when Jesus raised Lazarus, so it was a two-fer. Somewhere in there I wrote about the 1 leper who went back and said thank you to Jesus.  Why would he do that?  I wanted to explore his motivations.  I had fun with this title, Grateful Dead.

I know it's fiction, but I guess it's more like historical fiction.  I pray and ask the Lord to give me insight and wisdom.  I know I'm not writing a Holy Spirit inspired Gospel, but I do believe the Lord helps me write them.  I like to read Francine Rivers, the Thoenes, Lynn Austin and other Christian Fiction writers--especially when they write about Biblical times.  To my knowledge, there are novels of great Biblical stories, but not many of the short encounters with Jesus. 

I've posted these stories on FB in my notes section if you care to read them.
http://www.facebook.com/#!/?sk=mynotes&s=10

The two I'm working on now are about the paralytic let down from the roof by 4 men.  This one has taken me a long time... mostly because I needed to research roofs in Caesarea... I even went to Jerusalem hoping to find info out!  Not really, ha ha! Eventhough it was in the back of my mind, I went to Jerusalem to help my friends. We never made it to Galilee!  Anyway, I'm almost finished with that one, but I can't seem to end it.  I mean, if you were healed like that, it would be a total life changer!

The most current one is about the centurion who asks Jesus to heal his slave, but has the faith to receive the healing if Jesus just gives the command, not having to go and touch her. I am adding a lot about Jewish history, because he's going to have to love and respect the Jews.

Is there any chronological timeline here?  No, I don't have that kind of mind.  It's very hard for me to be linear like that... It will all come together knowing God is in this thing.  I'd love any feedback or suggestions for publishing, editing, organizing, etc. 

So we win again.  Victor's confinement home and my subsequent cloistering provides lots of time to write.  Now if I just don't "waste" it on FB or blogging!  :D

Messages from Heaven

Everyday I get a Verse of the Day from  http://www.biblegateway.org/ and Word of the Day from http://www.dictionary.com/.  There is almost always a message that pierces my heart or prods my soul.Today's Verse is:  “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." Leviticus 19:12.  (Insert husband for neighbor.)

I'm thinkin' "nailed on that one!"  The only way to continue to be gracious to someone in pain--think migraine, but in your back--is to be filled with God's presence continually.  I'm talkin' peace that passes understanding.  Because I'm too selfish and defensive to be nice this much.  I fail more than I succeed... But what did Paul say, I die daily? This is often what it feels like to look for appreciation where there is little.

Like Fireworks! Messages from heaven.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

I Need Breaks

Having breakfast with my mom and step dad.  It was a nice break from caretaking.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wha?

Ok, so my identity wasn't stolen?  I get an iPhone 4G in the mail...Do these cost $849???  I DID NOT order it.  Why would someone fake order an iPhone and have it sent to me? I paid for it, but the bank says they will pay me back tomorrow... I call the guy who sent it and he said it seemed like a legit transaction on eBay.  He wants me to send it back to him and he will refund my money.  But 1) I no longer have a Paypal acct.  and 2) I no longer have an eBay acct.  Cancelled my credit card too. 

Weird.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Healing Husband

I love watching my husband heal.  He used to be a man of information: NYTimes, NPR, ever scrolling his iTouch.  His favorite saying that my kids quote back to him is, "I read this article..."

But with a contusion (bruised brain) this past 5 weeks, he doesn't read well right now.  Perhaps it's the dizziness, perhaps it's another aspect of the injury.  He just watches tv.  Mostly shows from when he was a kid:  Mary Tyler Moore, The Brady Bunch, The Lucy Show...  I know it's just to distract him from the pain.  When you break 10 ribs, you are in a LOT of pain. 

That's not fun to watch.  Shifting around, trying to find a comfortable position, standing, sitting, lying down, trying to break the monotony.  Too weak to go anywhere, but bored.  Needing some stimulation, but not much.  I can't fix it. 

Today I was reading blogs, trying to get an idea what's out there, what's interesting. Wanting to see designs and content.  I stumbled across some that just wrench your heart out.  Women living with debilitating diseases, a recent widow trying to celebrate Father's Day with her 2 year old, a young woman who died of cancer (her mom finished it for her.)  I was humbled. 

My husband is alive.  He may be cranky, but he will come back.  His injuries are big, but all will heal with time.  How can I mope or fret?  I love that cultural saying, "It's all good."  I'm sure it has all sorts of connotations associated with it, but for me it means more like "All things work together for the good of those who love the Lord and who are called according to His purpose."
Flowers = Smiles
Given to me on Mother's Day from my "adopted daughter"
 (that is if I married and had children when I was 20 or so...)

Plans to Harm Me?

June 22nd
Woke up late
Rain storm (good for Houston, bad for traffic)
Son across town to U of H computer camp
Daughter to writing camp 25 minutes late
Garage door breaks
Won't open
Fight with injured husband ensues (guilt floods me)
Dog has diarrhea
Doesn't want to pee or poop outside
Doesn't want wet feet
Or is it because I've ignored her?
Cleaning up poop and pee.
In the cracks of my wood floor
Glasses broke in middle of yoga class
At least I know what to do
Identity Theft
$849 drained from account
Negative balance over $400
Credit card cancelled
Can't give to orphans overseas without it
Orphans account closed :..(
Son angry about Dad
Can't play video games on big screen
Husband on couch in front of tv all day
Moaning in pain
Husband not able to negotiate finances
Called Paypal
They say I must call my bank
Called bank
They say call this number
Everything will be ok
Called number
It's Paypal
Long waits with muzak droning
To hear can't handle $$
Without husband's permission
Poor Paypal guy
Listening to my sobs.

All the while
I am praising God
Not suffering
Praying for a troubled friend
Praying for issues in Israel
And persecuted throughout the world.
In the afternoon, after
being on hold to bank
Late to yoga class
and the glasses break,
I think, "This is ridiculous!"
I see Satan's attacks so clearly
But they keep coming
I dodge and weave
Fight back.
I may have sobbed to Paypal guy but
I quote Jeremiah 29:11 through gritted teeth
I know the plans I have for you
Says the Lord
Plans, not to harm you, but to
Give you a hope and a future.
HA! Take that!
You have not won!



But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Sunday, June 19, 2011

http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/victorperez1

     We have been sojourning since birth; many chronicling our trails through letters, journals, poems, memoirs, autobiographies and more recently, emails, websites, Facebook and blogs.  If you'd like to catch up on the beginning of my newfound relationship with blogging, go to the above site. This is what started me on this Blogging Sojourn...a journey into the wild world of hospital care for my husband after he fell 18+ feet while trimming the tree in front of our home. I will be making several referrals to those posts and even probably repost much of it here.  But before I continue, I need to lay a quote down:

   Here I pause in my sojourning, giving thanks for having come,
   Come to trust, at every turning, God will guide me safely home.
   Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God,
   Came to rescue me from danger, Precious Presence, precious blood.

   Robert Robinson (1735-1790),
   Calvinist Methodist preacher and hymn-writer.
   New Century Hymnal (1995).
   "Come, O Fount of Every Blessing," l. 5-8 (1758).